Author: Karen Bland



Photo, above: While Abby Kaeli maps a course for the EMBA 51 GO! Week scavenger hunt, her team members, Manoj Doddi Srinivas, Evan Schnur, Cody Hostuttler, and Alba Creales discuss strategy.

Executive MBA class 51 arrived at the Knight Center at WashU on Sunday, September 10, to kick off GO! Week, the first residency in the 20-month WashU EMBA journey. After checking in to their hotel rooms at the Knight Center, they gathered with Olin faculty and staff to begin the week.

The residency includes a heavy focus on team development, and the group of 44 students were assigned to their first team. Innovation, entrepreneurship, strategic management, and critical thinking are also major components of GO! Week. The residency includes lively debate, late nights, hard work, reflection, and some fun along the way, including a scavenger hunt and family night.

Team B (Laura Robbins, Kanda Arunachalam, Leah Ruder, Eric Goettelmann and Matt Broom) celebrates their arrival to the Whittemore House finish line for the scavenger hunt.

Close to 70% of the class is from the St. Louis area, with the rest commuting from Denver, Kansas City, Chicago and Southern Illinois, Indiana, and Arkansas. The program’s once-a-month format makes the commute possible from anywhere. Of interest, the 51st cohort includes a certified yoga instructor, a former NFL player, four doctors, and leaders from the U.S. Air Force, Army, and Navy.

From bankers to business owners, physicians to entrepreneurs, veterans to miners, the new EMBA class represents 37 different organizations, bringing multiple perspectives into the classroom for dynamic dialogue and discussion. 40% of the students are women. The average age of the entire cohort is 40, with an average of 15 years of work experience.

This 51st cohort of Olin’s Executive MBA program will navigate the areas of growth, global markets, innovation, and entrepreneurship. The program’s capstone course concludes with an innovation project that synthesizes knowledge from the entire curriculum.

Beyond GO! Week, the EMBA cohort will look forward to the Leadership Residency in St. Louis, The Business of Policy residency in Washington DC, and the International Residency in China before graduating April 30, 2019.

Welcome, EMBA 51—we are so glad to have you here at Olin!




It was dubbed the “The Biggest Office Party in St. Louis,” and Olin Executive MBAs wanted to be a part of the fun. On August 31, 4,000 people gathered downtown for the 2nd Annual Biz Dash—a 5K run through the streets of St. Louis’ business district. The EMBA program recruited a team of alumni, students, and staff for this community-building event.

Produced by the St. Louis Sports Commission, the Biz Dash brings companies together to race, mingle, and enjoy the night, with live music, food, drinks, and fun. It’s a happy hour with a healthy twist. Olin research finds that healthier employees lead to higher productivity in the workplace. And the race is all about inclusion – every level of runner and walker was encouraged to participate

There were teams from World Wide Technology, Emerson, Nestle Purina, Edward Jones, Maritz, Ameren, Boeing, and the WashU Executive MBAs, just to name a few.

The WashU EMBA team included Stephanie Russell (Sun Edison), Brandon Porter (Equifax), Patti Williams (Peabody), David Messner (St. Louis Regional Chamber), Andy Wiegert (WashU), Erik Penfield (Oracle) along with several spouses, guests, and members of the EMBA admissions and services teams including Meg Shuff, Assistant Dean of Executive MBA admissions.

It was a gorgeous night to be outside and there was fast energy all around—especially from the runners at Bryan Cave who finished first in both the male and female individual competitions.

Our executive MBAs were running to support the St. Louis Sports Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable affiliate that promotes sportsmanship and positive environments for kids to play sports. Look for next year’s growing team of WashU Executive MBAs on the run!




“Millennials in the workplace” is a big topic among non-millennials—both in the media and at work. So we tapped Andrew Knight, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, to shed some light on his research regarding this intriguing generation. He presented his findings in a recent webinar, identifying three trends that organizations are facing:

  1. Millennials are difficult to retain.

  2. Millennials prize their personal lives over their work lives.

  3. Millennials want opportunities to grow and develop.

I don’t think that anyone would argue that #2 and #3 aren’t positive or even natural from generation to generation. So let’s focus on the “difficult to retain” trend. Why? First off, millennials identify less and less with institutions, religion, and even voting. So they certainly aren’t going to drink the company Kool-Aid easily! They are always open to new endeavors and don’t readily choose to stay with a current employer for long. They want opportunities and they want to “work to live” (not necessarily the other way around). And when millennials work, they want to work in a less rigid environment, with plenty of mentoring and coaching along the way.

Millennials are often accused of being “entitled”  and “narcissistic.” However, as Professor Knight pointed out, every American generation has been called the “most narcissistic” to date. And many of the measures which ladder up to the label of narcissistic—”self-esteem,” “drive,” and “persistence”—also build up to being a leader, which isn’t a bad thing.

So how do we best embrace and nurture the Millennial generation? Professor Knight shared some key thoughts to this point:

  1. Avoid stereotyping millennials as “entitled.”

  2. Recognize that this generation is the most diverse generation in history.

  3. Offer career opportunities within an organization, even if a promotion is not available or appropriate. Consider a geographic, functional, or divisional change.

  4. Redefine rigid roles and rules to address the fact that millennials value their personal lives more than their work lives. Consider flexible time, flexible roles, or a flexible location policy.

  5. Give the “annual” review more often than once a year. Millennials are hungry to grow and develop; they want coaching, ongoing feedback and opportunities.

Millennials are here to stay, and managers need to think about how to better structure positions and policies to better attract, develop, and keep this pool of talent.

Be sure to check out the “Managing the Millennial Wave” seminar scheduled for February 2018, as well as our other management and leadership offerings

How millennial are you? Check out the Pew Center’s 14-question quiz.




Ten years ago, Matt Kulig walked into a big box home improvement store. After 20 minutes of fruitless searching for a surge protector, asking three employees for help, and being led to three incorrect locations, his patience was spent and he was on the verge of retail rage.

Fortunately, Kulig was able to channel his frustration into innovation by co-founding Aisle411, a mobile indoor mapping and location platform. The serial entrepreneur (he’s now working on his 10th startup) recently shared his story with Executive MBA (EMBA) students at Olin.

The Aisle411 app allows retailers to offer their guests accurate navigation throughout a store. In addition to navigation, it shares information on specials and other helpful data to enhance a customer’s experience. The app also tracks customers’ behavior to provide store owners with valuable insights on shopping patterns.

Today, St. Louis-based Aisle411 serves over 14,000 stores across the globe including Walgreens, Supervalu and Schnucks. They are able to do this thanks to partnerships with key businesses such as Google and Philips.

The EMBA students were all ears when Kulig said, “one can start a company from anywhere – yes, even the Midwest.” Aisle411’s mission is to “Uber-fy” the shopping experience.

Kulig shared 8 entrepreneurial lessons with WashU’s EMBA students:

  1. People Matter. You should like the people you work with.
  2. Networking Matters. Even for the extroverts, you “gotta do it.”
  3. Serendipity Happens. There is no such thing as good luck. There is such thing as opportunity which generally occurs after ideas and people collide.
  4. Don’t Wait For Things To Happen. Make them happen.
  5. It’s All About Selling. When you are an entrepreneur, whether you like it or not, you are in sales. Everyone you talk to is a potential investor, customer or storyteller.
  6. Manage Risk. Do not fear it.
  7. Everything is Negotiable.
  8. Millions of Ideas Happen, But Few Come to Life. Not all entrepreneurs have an original idea. But most people don’t end up executing.

EMBA student Morgran Crena said, “What I took home from Matt Kulig’s talk was how he managed the ups and downs as Aisle411 grew. As a serial entrepreneur, he clearly has a passion for start-ups and his work in the community shows his dedication to help others. A couple times he invited students to speak with him afterwards to discuss their ideas. When I met with him, he gave practical advice about potential pitfalls and was encouraging.”

The Executive MBA program, as well as student-run organizations, benefit from guest speakers throughout the year who bring real-world journeys to the classroom and add an extra dimension to Olin’s research-based learning.




“When we met with members of the Council of Economic Advisers to the White House, Congressional staffers and Congressional members, it really impressed me that they need  input from industry.” That was one of many takeaways Patti Williams, a member of Olin’s Executive MBA (EMBA) cohort shared after their DC Residency – a deep dive into government regulations and policy – in Washington, DC with Olin partner, the Brookings Institution.

Williams who is Vice President and General Counsel of Peabody Energy completed the EMBA program in May of this year and was featured in a recent article on Olin’s unique DC Residency program published by the Poets & Quants for Executives website.

The four-day DC residency with Olin’s partner the Brookings Institution provides students the opportunity to talk face-to-face with government decision makers including legislators, administrators and power brokers who influence policy behind the scenes. During the residency, students complete two courses: Business and Government, and Business and Society. They engage with speakers from current and former members of Congress to US governors, White House advisors and administrators from organizations such as the Federal Reserve and the Office of Management and Budget.

Olin EMBA graduate, Chris Hawkins, Vice President of operations at Multiply, a St. Louis-based fan engagement platform, says the DC Residency provided an insider’s view of the complexity of the legislative process.

Hawkins told Poets & Quants, the DC Residency was a non-stop learning experience. “There wasn’t any time where you thought, ‘OK, this is where I’m going to step outside and take this call for work.’ You felt like you couldn’t miss anything.”  Hawkins added “It really addressed a hole I had as [business] related to public policy.”

According to Poets & Quants, “One of the biggest takeaways for many…participants was the importance and impact business leaders can have within society as a whole. [Patti Williams] left feeling more optimistic about the interactions between business, society, and government.”

Link to Poets & Quants article, “Olin Mixes Policy and Business in DC”


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